Studying the Effectiveness of Teacher Education: Early Career Teachers in Diverse Settings
reviewed by Manu Sharma — December 06, 2018
Title: Studying the Effectiveness of Teacher Education: Early Career Teachers in Diverse Settings
Author(s): Diane Mayer, Mary Dixon, Jodie Kline, Alex Kostogriz, Julianne Moss, Leonie Rowan, Bernadette Walker-Gibbs, & Simone White
Publisher: Springer Publishing, New York
ISBN: 9811039283, Pages: 136, Year: 2017
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The purpose of this book is to examine the effectiveness of teacher education in preparing future teachers for a variety of diverse settings. There are three main areas of focus that guide this research project: how effective graduates and principals perceived their teacher education programs; whether there were any particular aspects of their teacher education programs that they felt were linked to their preparedness or effectiveness as beginning teachers; and the career and employment pathways of new teachers as well as retention and attrition.
The book is divided into five major parts, with Chapter One offering an introduction and overview of the project. Chapter Two examines the neoliberal demands on teacher education programs to monitor effectiveness and to develop quality teachers. The authors explain how the term quality is limited in its traditional use because it does not consider the dynamic context of teachers workplaces, which vary immensely given their geographical region, the students they serve, and the amount of resources available. In other words, how can one universally prescribe what makes a quality teacher when the context of dynamic workplaces is not considered? Secondly, the authors problematize the idea of teacher effectiveness being demonstrated only by students public standardized test outcomes.
The authors used a mixed methods approach in their four-year longitudinal study of the effectiveness of teacher education. The research methods included: (a) mapping key components of teacher education programs in Australia, (b) surveys which contained scale-based questions and a few open-ended questions given to 5,000 recent graduates and 1,000 principals, and (c) qualitative interviews of case study participants about early teaching experiences. The content examined in the interview questions explored students and contexts, teacher practices, teacher knowledge, efficacy, lived experiences, teacher preparation, popular culture and images of teachers, artifact analysis, and career trajectories.
The findings correspond with two main research questions and a broader research theme taken up in Chapters Four, Five, and Six, respectively. In Chapter Four, the question answered is: how well-equipped are graduates to meet the requirements of the diverse settings in which they are employed? The authors share quantitative outcomes based on the different surveys completed by teachers and principals.
In Chapter Five, the question taken up is: what characteristics of teacher education programs are most effective in preparing teachers to work in a variety of schools? After analyzing the data sets collected in the study, the researchers argue that there is a need for a closer integration of teacher preparation, induction, and ongoing professional learning (p. 78). Some key recommendations for teacher education programs are that they help students learn more about classroom management, catering to diverse learners, managing workloads, teaching out-of-field, and engaging with parents. The authors also recommend that programs provide a geographical variety of practicums that help replicate the diverse contexts (i.e., rural, urban, and remote) that students may enter when they obtain their first job.
In Chapter Six, the theme of employment pathways, mobility, and retention of graduate teachers is acknowledged. The authors argue that in order to understand these phenomena, we must take into account situated perspective, which they define as considering the contextual factors of graduate teachers needs and their schools geographical characteristics. Moreover, they argue that situated perspective would allow us to move beyond focusing solely on employment trends to consider how teachers perceive their capabilities and effectiveness in a particular school setting.
In Chapter Seven, the authors claim that the approach [they] used aimed to problematize the teacher education is failing us discourse as well as the pursuit of essential truths or so called best practice models (p. 122). In particular, by focusing on the data collected via the surveys and case study focus groups, the authors claim that effectiveness can be understood only through the lens of the participants. Many graduate teachers stated that their effectiveness was grounded in their own hard work and assistance from mentors rather than teacher education programs. In closing, teacher education programs are the beginning part of a professional learning journey that teachers must embark upon; learning teaching is ongoing but nonlinear. It occurs across multiple spaces in messy and recursive ways (p. 128). In other words, the significance of this study lies in the conclusion that teacher education has multiple layers of partnerships and partners that come together to create the complexity of teacher education, making the whole greater than the sum of its parts (p. 132).
Some points for further consideration include: how can this study examine the effectiveness of teacher education when a direct examination of the teacher education programs was not shared or presented beyond statistics within a national mapping of selected teacher education programs in Australia? Are there biases, as the study is using second-hand narratives of graduates and principals in order to judge university programs effectiveness?
Another issue is that the diversity of public school students is missing in the data, yet the study is attempting to study the effectiveness of early teachers in diverse settings. Arent students and the school culture informed by multiple diversities? Shouldnt geographical context, the diverse identities of administrators and teachers, and funding for each school be considered?
The third issue that needs to be further considered is the lack of helpfulness of the complexity theory design that cloaks quantitative and qualitative data. Should there not be a relationship described about the use of quantitative findings informing the grounds for qualitative research, or vice versa? There seems to be a lot of data that is splintered off into different directions while not addressing the larger study cohesively with respect to how Australian teacher education programs prepare early teachers for diverse settings given their current structures, policies, and curricula. Although the independent findings put into a contextual perspective can be argued to portray the complexities of teacher education in a more accurate manner, this study leaves unanswered the question of how teacher education programs in Australia promote, understand, and deliver on issues of diversity. Thus, further research based on the challenges and gaps found in this study would be helpful in moving forward conversations about how to develop teacher education programs that support early career teachers to thrive in diverse settings.
In closing, the studys findings leave an invitation to engage in deeper discussions about the impact and outcomes of teacher education programs that strive for effectiveness with respect to preparing early teachers for diverse settings. A suggestion for a sequel book on this topic would be to investigate the original teacher education programs that students graduated from and examine what they promoted as a way of preparing their students to teach in diverse settings. This would allow for a comparison between the data collected from individual recent graduates and the teacher education programs missions and structures with respect to preparing teacher candidates for diverse settings.